The degree to which the cultural ideal is internalized predicts judgments of male and female physical attractiveness

Bethany J. Ridley, Piers L. Cornelissen, Nadia Maalin, Sophie Mohamed, Robin S. S. Kramer, Kristofor McCarty, Martin J. Tovee

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Abstract

We used attractiveness judgements as a proxy to visualize the ideal female and male body for male and female participants and investigated how individual differences in the internalization of cultural ideals influence these representations. In the first of two studies, male and female participants judged the attractiveness of 242 male and female computer-generated bodies which varied independently in muscle and adipose. This allowed us to map changes in attractiveness across the complete body composition space, revealing single peaks for the attractiveness of both men and women. In the second study, we asked our participants to choose the most attractive male and female bodies in a method of adjustment task in which they could independently vary muscle and adipose to create the most attractive body. We asked whether individual differences in internalization of cultural ideals, drive for muscularity, eating disorder symptomatology and depressive symptoms could systematically shift the location of peak attractiveness in body composition space. We found a clear preference by both genders for a male body with high muscle and low adipose, and a toned, low adipose female body. The degree of internalization of cultural ideals predicted large individual differences in the composition of the most attractive bodies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number980277
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume13
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2022

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